Britain’s energy network operators have detailed their commitments to speed up generation and storage connections, pledging to deliver all of them during 2024.
Grid companies in the Energy Networks Association have promised next year to release an extra 139GW of capacity to ease bottlenecks.
In addition, connection dates will be speeded up for approximately 71GW of other customer projects.
The operators’ commitments are laid out in a new ENA report, “Rising to Britain’s Net Zero Challenge
Connection applications for all technologies more than tripled since 2019, resulting in delays of up to a decade snagging new generation from wind and solar farms.
With Britain’s grid committed to be carbon-free by the mid-2030s, the country needs 275GW of new capacity to reach both that goal and Net Zero by 2050, according to Future Energy Scenarios published in July by the ESO, Britain’s emerging replacement to the National Grid.
The 139GW addition comes on top, says the report, of 112GW of new capacity already installed.
Since the start of 2023 alone, says the ENA, nearly 50GW of that additional capacity has already been made available to customers.
Together they put grid decarbonisation ahead of schedule for completion by 2035, the ENA claims.
The operators’ joint action plan lays out six steps to secure speedier connections. Four achieved in 2023 are:
- Purging up to 90GW of outdated, redundant requests from the connections queue, so that links are now made on a “first ready, first connected” basis.
- Granting time-flexible contracts to some applicants before gridcos complete preparatory upgrades. As much as 70GW has been freed.
- Releasing nearly 3GW through more efficient processing of storage and BESS requests. With as much as 200GW queued, storage applications have rocketed by nearly 6,000% since 2019. ENA members are revising modelling assumptions for storage at both transmission and distribution levels, aligning them better with clearer patterns of usage.
- Freeing up 46GW of capacity by making network planning processes more coordinated and realistic.
Two further steps advanced by the ENA are:
- Tightening up on applications. Greater dialogue with applicants, exchanging data with them and standardising engagement before paperwork goes in, are all needed, the association concedes.
- Better liaison between the ENA’s transmission and distribution members. The two classes of operators must push harder to speed up information flows. Under consideration are reviewing thresholds for referral for transmission impacts and reforming the charging burden on distribution customers.
“We need to pull out all the stops to accelerate grid connections“, ENA chief executive Lawrence Slade said.
“This plan gets us the capacity we need in just one more year to decarbonise the grid. The action plan we’ve set out includes new ways to ensure only projects with a realistic chance of fruition are approved, as well as a redoubling of efforts to improve coordination between transmission and distribution operators which we know will be more streamlined and ultimately, fairer for customers”.
From the National Grid’s transmission division, director of customer connections John Twomey responded:
“This report shows how joined up working across the energy sector is delivering the change that’s needed to speed up connections and decarbonise Britain.
“There’s much more work to do, but the ENA’s proposals – together with the electricity system operator’s recent recommendations for reform – will see distribution and transmission networks working hand-in-glove to deliver on the government and Ofgem’s bold connections action plan.”